Disasters ruin people's lives. It's pretty much the only thing they do. They ruin people's lives and look cool in movies. They're like the Kevin Spacey of abstract tragedies. But some disasters don't just kill people and destroy property -- they take it a step further and screw with some folks' lives in such bizarre, excessive ways that you can't help but think the Universe is holding some very personal grudges against them. For example ...
Henryk Siwiak's Murder Was Never Investigated Because Of 9/11
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, New York City's homicide rate plummeted to one: Henryk Siwiak. And his murder is forever destined to go unsolved because of, well ... remember that thing we started off by talking about?
Henryk was a recent immigrant from Poland. He lived with his sister in Brooklyn, worked in construction, and sent everything he earned back home to his wife so that one day they could afford to build a house. After the planes struck the towers, his job site closed down, and Henryk returned to his sister's. In order to supplement the money he'd lose due to the shutdown, he contacted an employment agency, and they hooked him up with a job cleaning a supermarket. It started that very night.
Michael Foran"Oh man ... better make sure my grocery store gets cleaned." -- someone's reaction, apparently
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Unfamiliar with the subway system -- no doubt because it was designed by Hell's own puzzlemaster -- he found himself deposited three miles away from his destination. He decided to walk the rest of the way. At 11:40 p.m., local residents heard arguing, followed by gunshots. Henryk suffered a bullet to his lung, then staggered to a nearby house and rang the doorbell ... that the occupants didn't answer because of the gunshots they just heard. He collapsed in the street and died before help could reach him.
Police arrived on the scene, but there was such a severe lack of manpower and equipment that they could only spare a single detective with a Polaroid camera -- which is a perfectly fine setup for, say, attending a wedding, but not ideal for, say, solving murders. The detective was accompanied by a forensic team that specialized in burglaries and other non-fatal crimes, so they were woefully out of their depth from the start.
Oh, and they had no lights to work under, and therefore had to rely on flashlights. Honestly, it's amazing the police made it out of there alive.
In the end, they were unable to turn up a single lead in the case -- no witnesses, no evidence, and no obvious perpetrators. They're still trying, with a $12,000 reward for any information about the murder. But while time may heal all wounds, it does approximately dick for criminal apprehension.
Lilian Lepere Hides From Terrorists, Gets Outed On Live TV
If only because you're reading this site right now, we're sure that when your home or workplace is attacked by terrorists, you'll immediately go full John McClane and take to the vents like you were born there (... and somebody's gonna die there -- DIE HARD 8: VENT YOUR RAGE).
Lilian Lepere had the first part of that strategy down. In 2015, Lepere was working as a graphics designer for a printworks in Dammartin-en-Goele, Paris, when two armed gunmen stormed the building and took the manager hostage. Lilian managed to escape and hid in a kitchen cupboard, unaware that two days prior, those same gunmen had attacked the Charlie Hebdo office, where they killed 12 people. As the subjects of a full-scale manhunt, Cherif and Said Kouachi had chosen the printworks as the site of their final showdown.
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While his manager patched up the brothers' wounds and offered them pre-shootout hot drinks, Lepere texted his father: "I am hidden on the first floor. I think they have killed everyone. Tell the police to intervene."
When they did, Lepere relayed the positions of the gunmen, what he'd witnessed of their weapons (including a goddamn rocket launcher), and any snippets of conversation he overheard from his perch between the Drano and that old detergent that just didn't work out. It all went swimmingly ... until the police accidentally revealed to the press that they had a literal inside man. As soon as they saw that, the terrorists began a search of the property, and according to Lepere, they were seconds away from discovering his location before they did the world a favor and took the ol' bullet train to hell.
Only hours after the Brothers Kouachi stormed the printworks, co-terrorist Amedy Coulibaly launched an attack on a kosher supermarket, killed four people, took the rest as hostages, and demanded the safe release of the brothers. Amidst the carnage, some citizens were able to escape to an underground storage room. Reasonably sure that this whole terrorist siege thing wasn't going to end well, they texted their friends and loved ones to say goodbye ... which one station, BFMTV, learned of and promptly broadcast without a care in the world: "There's a person, a woman, who might have been hiding from the start in the fridge. And who is probably still there."
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Luckily, Coulibaly didn't have access to a television at the time, and those folks remained undetected until commandos breached the supermarket and bought him an economy ticket right behind the Kouachis.
Oskar Speck Canoed Halfway Around The World To Get Arrested (Because of WWII)
You know what they say: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
Tell that to Oskar Speck, who sailed from Germany to Australia, only to discover the hidden epilogue: "... and ends with you in an internment camp."
Speck was possibly a member of the Nazi party -- that part is debatable -- but he was certainly an unemployed electrician with little-to-no prospects in his hometown of Ulm. So he decided to skip out and travel to Cyprus, where he heard that they might be looking for people to work in the island's copper mines. As a man of many talents, Speck eschewed public transportation in favor of the canoe, because some people hate themselves a whole lot and don't know how to properly express it.
With his stockpile of tinned meat and chocolate, Speck set off on his voyage in May of 1932. He paddled through Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, and eventually reached Cyprus several months later ... where he realized that copper mining sucked, and aimlessly buttin' around on a canoe was way better.
By 1936, he'd crossed Asia, from India to Burma and beyond. In 1939, when Speck landed on Thursday Island, an island (duh) on the tip of Australia's Northern Territory, he was met by two constables who presented him with a congratulatory pair of handcuffs. They charged him as an enemy combatant sent to disrupt the war effort. Now, Speck had clearly departed Germany before the war had begun, but those savvy cops knew wily ol' Hitler loved to play the long game, and this one confused guy in a canoe was certainly the linchpin for the greatest war the world had ever seen.
Speck spent the next several years rotating through the country's various internment camps. Only after the war was he finally released and told to go home. As that had since been bombed to hell, however, he cut his losses and stayed in Australia. He set up an opal-dealing business and lived a decent life, but you can still use him as a cautionary example to get out of the family canoe trip. We won't tell anybody.
Vaughn Meader Was Ruined By The JFK Assassination
Back in the 1960s, Vaughn Meader started his career as a nightclub performer, but quickly found widespread fame for his impersonations of the newly elected President John F. Kennedy. On the back of his mostly good-natured jokes, he soon found himself opening nightclubs, performing across the country, and beating out icons of the era for Album of the Year at the 1963 Grammy Awards. He was even approached by Frank Sinatra to join the Rat Pack! Friggin' JFK himself loved Vaughn, and would play his album, The First Family, at cabinet meetings, going so far as to hand out copies to his friends and family. He once opened a speech at the DNC by apologizing for stealing a potential gig from Vaughn. When the leader of the free world opens statements with your name, you either did something right or something very, very wrong.
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So yes, the fact that you've never heard of him before now is indeed an ominous portent ...
After JFK took his ill-fated ride through Dealey Plaza, Vaughn dropped his impersonations out of respect and tried to move back into mainstream comedy. America wouldn't have any of it, however. He was "funny JFK guy" and only "funny JFK guy," and no, he couldn't be "funny JFK guy" anymore.
Vaughn never recovered his following. Before he died in 2004, he sold his life rights in the hope that someone would one day turn his tale into a movie, but nothing ever came of it. Actually, maybe Nothing Ever Came Of It is a good title for that movie. Or at least an exceedingly grim epitaph.